Bloomington Business Registration Suspended!

This Facebook post from a local lawyer with Hinch Law may have had something to do with it:

The New Bloomington Business Registration Ordinance – Reasonable Clarification Is In Order

I’m seeing several recent posts about the new City of Bloomington – City Hall business registration ordinance that just took effect. I’m not going to rehash arguments from when it was passed and whether it should exist or not; the ordinance was passed, and now it is a question of educating folks and trying to avoid unintended and negative (or “silly,” see below) consequences. So I’m not writing this to complain about the fee (I’m not saying I agree with it either, but that’s not why I’m writing this). The reason I’m writing this is because I’m concerned with how words are defined in the ordinance, and how certain fee exemptions are worded, such that the ordinance risks fining people for inadvertent errors or honest misunderstandings, and even fining registration fee exempt persons or entities such that the fine exceeds the actual fee that would have been required to just register in the first place.
  1. The definition of “business” is overly broad, vague and ambiguous. It specifically includes a “calling” or an “occupation.” This would potentially mean anyone who is employed has a business. Keep in mind, the purpose of this ordinance is to require “registration of all businesses,” to quote the ordinance. So it’s fundamentally important to get this definition right. Right out of the gate we have an issue in the definition of “business” potentially applies to folks are just working from home for their employers. And I’m not even going to get into whether or not a stay-at-home parent role is a “calling” within the meaning of the ordinance….
  2. Included in the “business” definition is a sentence that “charitable organizations” and “home-based occupations” are expressly deemed “businesses” but are exempt from registration fees. These terms are then also defined (actually, the ordinance contains a definition of “home occupation” even though the exemption refers to “home-based occupations.” One would hope this error would be obvious and interpreted to mean the same thing, but at a minimum the drafting of the ordinance is error and creates an ambiguity, which is unfortunate. Having noted this error, I’m going to use “home-based occupations” as the term from here on). The definition also specifies we are talking about “businesses” having a “physical location” in the City of Bloomington, so “physical location” is also defined. We’ll table the “charitable organizations” issue for the moment and next look at “home-based occupations.”
  3. “Home-based occupation” and “physical location” are ambiguous and overly broad, particularly when read together. “Home occupation” is defined as “activity within a dwelling by a resident of that dwelling for the purpose of earning income.” So this could apply to a piano instructor, a Mary Kay representative, someone who works part time as a nanny or house cleaner, etc. “Person” is also defined in the statute but does not distinguish minor children, so your teenager who is mowing lawns or babysitting is potentially within this definition. Even a telecommuter falls within this definition. The result is that all of the above potentially are required to register with the city (will get to the fee exemption in a minute). “Physical location” adds a twist – you are also required to register if your only physical location in the city is for storage of goods, products, or equipment. So an out of town business that has a storage locker in Bloomington is required to register. The Mary Kay representative who stores inventory somewhere outside the home may be treated differently than the one who does not maintain inventory.
  4. “Charitable organizations” are defined based on IRS rules for federal income tax exemption. Again, these are exempt from the registration fee, but still required to register. But there are numerous non-profit organizations that are not tax exempt and do not meet this definition. For example, I am a Rotarian. The local Rotary club would be a not-for-profit entity, but not necessarily tax exempt; the Rotary Foundation is tax exempt. Homeowners associations and condo associations are generally non-exempt, non-profit entities. Whether charitable or not, all non-profit entities would need to register under the ordinance, but they would be treated differently in terms of the fee exemption. Importantly, churches and other religious organizations are NOT exempt from the registration requirement, though they would be exempt from the fee so long as they are tax exempt (which they should be).
  5. Ok, about the fees. The ordinance calls for a one-time $50 registration fee. But failing to register results in a fine of “not less than $75 nor more than $250.” That’s right, the minimum fine is more than the actual registration fee. Each day of a continuing violation after notice is considered a separate offense, such that one could be fined up to $1,000 total. These penalties for failing to register apply whether the person would have been exempt from the $50 registration fee or not. The church or other charitable organization that fails to register? Fine of at least $75. The Mary Kay rep? Same thing. The teenage lawn mowing entrepreneur? Same thing. Potentially the same thing even for the telecommuter who works for a major corporation headquartered out of town, but who is working from home.
But wait, couldn’t the City just interpret the ordinance around these issues and not enforce the fine against some of the more “silly” scenarios I’ve outlined? As soon as you say that, you are calling for selective enforcement, which is a dangerous, slippery slope to get into, and calls into question the legitimacy of the entire ordinance. Who is to say what is “silly,” if the ordinance itself calls for its application in such a manner? Which brings us full circle. I suggest the City Council revisit this ordinance if for no other reason than to clean up the drafting and make it more clearly understandable, so it is not prone to a choice between selective enforcement or “silly” interpretation, and to avoid hurting people by assessing fines due to an innocent misunderstanding of this confusing, ambiguous ordinance.
.
.
.
.
.
.

23 thoughts on “Bloomington Business Registration Suspended!

  1. My seeing eye dog just read this to me! He don’t sound happy!!
    I TOLD him “No more treats” because that’s INCOME, which makes him a BUSINESS!
    He thinks this is ALL a bunch of pasture patties!

    Like

  2. Why is it that the ones who want to lead are incapable, and the ones who can don’t need the BS? A legal entity (a business??) exists for a number of reasons, one of which is to engage in what we commonly call a business. Having a legal entity in ones name, or an interest in an entity does not describe a “going concern”. Some people work from home because the economy requires it, or are trying to build a business. Some run a lifestyle business which is more like a hobby or creates a little side income. Enough already with the onerous taxes, especially as a “reward” for good people trying to make a go of it. Government should make reasons for an “owner” to stay or build a business in Illinois, reasons to invest and contribute, mechanisms to reduce dependence on welfare programs. Show fiscal responsibility so we can be proud to pay our fair share of taxes because we know they’re being spent and invested well. It’s become a whole lot easier financially to move a business, than to put up with the incompetence in state and local government. Who wants that in their business plan. Still wondering why people and business are leaving?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It is amazing that this ordinance got this far without a legal look at? Good for Hinch Law! Nice to have someone with a brain on our side here in Bloomington.

        Like

      2. Probably their damn Springfield people. Perhaps they should be taxed for buying services out of town the same way a citizen is taxed if they buy a car out of town. We have lawyers here just like car dealerships. Problem is the citizen gets screwed here the same way they get stuck paying for illegally spiked salaries.

        Like

  3. Setting aside the arguments against this business-unfriendly ordinance, I wonder what the net gain/loss will be after subtracting all the City’s expenses associated with lawyers (which it seems are continuing), government worker hours fielding calls and inquiries (which, by the way, could be put to better use), and lost productivity among the business owners themselves. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest this will take years to net a $1 positive income for the City. If the Council were smart, they’d use this “misunderstanding” as political cover to indefinitely suspend the ordinance.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wonder if it was one of those,,,”we have to pass it to see what’s in it” ordinances. This council is full of idiots! Yep, ALL of you are basically worthless Renner lemmings. Geesh! Step out of the box once in a while and THINK for a change.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Problem is “BN DESERVES BETTER” IF the council AND mayor WERE smart enough to just drop this or sweep it under the rug, so to speak. They WOULD NOT have dreamed up such an asinine plan in the FIRST place. “Stupid is as stupid does”
    I haven’t met ONE business owner yet who has ANY GOOD words to say about this !!!

    Like

    1. Spot on, Townie. You got me there! I hope the Tari lemmings in the Downtown Mafia will turn on him. They seem pissed off at the state’s minimum wage hike (what did they think would happen?), perhaps they’re starting to understand the consequences of not being business-friendly. Unless of course, they receive a taxpayer-funded check from an existing or new program concocted by Tari and the Council.

      Like

  6. Fee or no fee, my problem is the city saying the “true value of the program is data.” Um…the government has no right to my “data.” This is a baby step toward the restriction of private property rights. Boil the water slowly enough, the frog won’t know he’s being cooked until it’s too late. The left plays the long game…we have to look to their long term objectives with these kinds of things. They’re willing to drag it out so we don’t notice until it’s too late.

    Like

    1. The government already has all of the data. Note: nothing gets done without permits. According to a business owner friend of mine the questionaire was about 25-30 pages long with instructions. Many of the questions were redundant on several pages. They wanted to know how many square feet their parking lot was, how many spaces, when was it first opened. What is the parcel number? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Renner should be paying people $100 for the the time it takes to fill the darn thing. Heck, a person could buy a house or lease a car, proably get a pass port and visit Russia with way less paperwork. Shame on everyone one the members of city council that voted for this stupid thing.

      Like

  7. Businesses….do not stop fighting this until it is eliminated. As another stated this is BS. Do not accept Comrade Renner and company’s desire to control you by getting everything about you in their possession. Stalin and chairman Mao would love this.

    Like

  8. In Bloomington, you cant sling a dead cat without hitting a law business. I wonder if all those lawyers have read the fine print ?
    They are suspending this so Jamie M can for a Tech committee . Another layer of government just what Bloomington needs. If you think this ordinance wasnt bad enough just wait till the committee gets its money grubbing hands on it.

    Like

  9. I feed the birds and squirrels (is this area then an animal sanctuary?!) and am thinking of making another couple birdhouses for the coming year – Would these be considered “housing” or would they be considered a temporary/transitional residence since birds only use them part of the year, or a homeless shelter. (and those regulations are insane) – Should I be concerned? Will I need permits? Will I need to register these enterprises as small businesses or non-profits? Oh the constant joys of living in the People’s Republic of Bloom under the Politboro type “council” we now have.

    Like

      1. Yup. Here are some early predictions: Eminent domain and more spending in Downtown, Connect Transit hub in Downtown, Mathy’s Technology Center, the establishment of a “Diversity Committee” and/or “LGBTQ…RSTUVWXYZ Committee”, a “one-time” large capital “investment” in the BCPA, declining population, worse roads, and far-left grandstanding by newer members of the Council. What did I miss?

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s